Roger Ebert passed away today.
I’m a little eccentric about what I regularly check on the internet. I’m not a Redditor. I don’t check Gawker, or follow anyone’s Tweets. I check about a dozen webcomics daily, and I read about that many blogs every other day or so. A few artists, but mostly writers. I’ve been reading Ebert’s movie reviews since I was 15, and his blog for 5 or 6 years now. His last entry, a bit ironic (or perhaps he knew it was time, and was letting his readers down gently) is here.
Like most people, I didn’t always agree with his reviews. I didn’t agree with his view that video games could never be art. I thought he could’ve been a bit more forgiving of movies as extensions of other media. But he almost always had solid explanations for his opinions, and a steadfast stance on films being films, works apart from anything else, and meant to stand on their own as both voices of the creators and reflections of their culture. He was a master lecturer, an academic giant of films who knew the depth and breadth of movies- techniques, history, the prescence of artistry in filmmaking.
The thing about Ebert that really grew on me, though, was his writing. His reviews occasionally deviated into examining some cultural phenomenon, and once he started his blog it was clear that he had a fascination with the delight and sometimes horror of being- just being. He wrote a lot about current events, and a lot more about particular people and places he knew, and he wrote with a simple deftness of experience and the warmth of familiarity. His writing was calm, full of pauses that invited readers to reflect. It’s not a common style anymore.
It’s one thing to lose a mere movie critic, but today we lost a fine writer. And that’s worth remembering.